On a quest for a kiln (or two)...Part one!

My first glass & ceramics kiln...

Constantly combing the Craigslist classifieds for used kilns, I finally landed on a model that was pre-approved for use in our new studio in Red Hook (read about Supersmith here). As a starter kiln, the Paragon Xpress 1193 seemed like a good choice. I'd whittled down the list of potential matches to either the Xpress or the Paragon Janus 1613, the smallest member of the ceramics-glass mixed use Janus series (still significantly larger than the Xpress). There are plenty of other glass-only models that can work with standard voltage power, but I was specifically hunting for something that could reach all the way up to porcelain-firing temps. Though the Xpress only hits 2300°F, that's still hot enough to fire some types of porcelain clays, as well as handling small glass work.

North Wildwood, NJ

North Wildwood, NJ

I drove the 3 hours down to the very tip of the Wildwoods in shore-side New Jersey to test our little buddy out. The previous owner was a gold- and silver-casting enthusiast who had bought the unit to melt metals, before realizing that the far more efficient mini electromelt system he now owns was a much better choice. He recounts starting it up the first and last time, waiting several hours for it to hit the proper temperature (he works out of his apartment), and having a glowing red cloud of particles fill the room and his cotton glove catching on fire. The door came slamming down, cracking some of the bricks, and never was the unit used again.

I had a moment of panic while I was there because, despite reading exhaustively about these kilns for days before driving down there, I somehow hadn't realized that this particular model lacks elements in the ceiling (lid), which is an ideal feature for flat glass slumping. We went with it anyway, because I think with such a cozy interior volume (.56 cubic feet) the top elements aren't really necessary, and it eliminates the worry of those elements sagging after some time and needing premature replacement.

I'll be getting the kiln situated with the help of the guys at the studio and doing some tests to find any cold spots in the chamber, and to make sure the metal residue from Nick's casting disaster isn't affecting the clarity of my glass (silver and other metals are used to "fume" glass, aka deposit a fine decorative layer of haze, which isn't something I want occurring all the time).

Stay tuned.